Controversy is swirling around one of the Inland Northwest’s most prominent civil rights activists, with family members of Rachel Dolezal saying the local leader of the NAACP has been falsely portraying herself as black for years....The winger jokes write themselves:
Dolezal is credited with re-energizing the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. She also serves as chairwoman of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, where she identified herself as white, black and American Indian in her application for the volunteer appointment, and previously was education director for the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene.
In recent days, questions have arisen about her background and her numerous complaints to police of harassment. Members of her family are challenging her very identity, saying she has misrepresented major portions of her life.
Dolezal’s mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, said Thursday by phone from her home in Northwest Montana that she has had no contact with her daughter in years. She said her daughter began to “disguise herself” in 2006 or 2007, after the family had adopted four African-American children and Rachel Dolezal had shown an interest in portrait art....
Ruthanne Dolezal said the family’s ancestry is Czech, Swedish and German. She said the family does have some “faint traces” of Native American heritage as well.
And from Instapundit:
SHE’S TRANS-BLACK. DON’T SHAME HER.... She’s obviously transitioning, and we should support her choice.Har de har.
Okay, then, let's have this conversation.
I'm not going to back off on support for trans people because sexual feelings and, by extension, gender self-perception are internal and visceral. There are clearly quite a few people on the planet with "gender dysphoria" that needs to be dealt with. Encouraging people with gender dysphoria to live as part of the gender with which they identify seems sane and humane.
But black people's problems in this society are external -- if you're black, what you're dealing with is how a majority-white culture treats you based on skin color.
So, no, it's not hypocritical to embrace Caitlyn Jenner and reject the claims of Rachel Dolezal.
I generally agree with what Elinor Burkett wrote in her New York Times op-ed "What Makes a Woman?": we should "create space for everyone to express him-, her- or, in gender neutral parlance, hir-self without being coerced by gendered expectations," but we should also acknowledge that a woman who lived many decades as a man hasn't had the same experiences as someone who's lived as a woman all her life:
People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women ... shouldn’t get to define us. That’s something men have been doing for much too long....Substitute race for gender and the same applies to Rachel Dolezal. She hasn't had a black person's life.
Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.
As for whether she's innately, viscerally black, in a way we ought to recognize, sorry, but I'm skeptical. Sex and gender are felt from the inside, and I don't believe race is felt the same way. Your mileage may vary. But no, I don't buy the notion that acceptance of trans people boxes us in with regard to Dolezal.